Dietary Fraud & My Mom’s Ration Book

Jorge Milanes

In Cuba, powdered milk is a “dietary” product or a luxury. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — “You people have committed fraud. The special allotment of powdered milk in your ration booklet is false. Now, you have to reimburse me for the milk I gave you, which you’ve already consumed.” These were the words spoken, right outside our door, by the accountant of the store where we purchase the products assigned us by our ration booklet.

Her tantrum was a bit much, even for us, who have grown accustomed to the abuse dished out by these government workers who deal with the public. She asked us to show her our ration card, so she could check the period for which the dietary item had been allotted.

When we gave it to her, she showed us that the date on the last page had been scratched out. She told us she needed to take the document with her, to verify whether the dietary allotment was real or not, and to see if it had been properly renewed.

My mother has long suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes and glaucoma. Three years ago, she underwent surgery for a neoplasia of the colon. Thus, the physician had assigned her an official diet consisting of chicken, viands and milk, a dietary allotment which must be renewed every year as of the date the diet is prescribed.

My brother and I thought we had settled this whole renewal issue when we’d gotten the diabolical OFICODA (Cuba’s “food control” bureau) to sign and stamp the ration booklet on January of this year. This bureau, in addition to renewing official dietary product allotments, is responsible (or ought to be responsible) for regulating (through non-computerized means, I assume) the distribution of products on the ration booklet. I say “diabolical” because its regulation mechanisms are all too often quite negligent.

Some ration booklets include individuals who have moved or left the country, non-existent children and even people who have passed away.

Family members who share a ration booklet actually profit from this negligence.

But our family is not in the habit of taking anything that’s not rightfully ours. This is why we were so taken aback by the accountant’s rude accusations; we felt humiliated. This public official, it is worth pointing out, has a “suspicious” link to OFICODA, where she was to confirm the alleged falsity of our dietary allotment.

Nowadays, as everyone in Cuba knows, these allotments are a booming business. For having deprived a person of the dietary allotment they need, these officials can proceed to sell it to another person for a fistful of hard currency.

When the “accountant” returned to our home with the ration booklet, the allotment had already been cancelled. When we asked her to explain to us who could possibly have signed and stamped the booklet, she replied: “It was probably a temp who is no longer working at OFICODA. If the allotment is real, you have to go and get it re-assigned by your doctor again.”

Following a long and difficult process involving physicians, signatures and seals – a process which spanned 20 days, if I am not mistaken – my mother’s dietary allotment was renewed…for next month, of course.

Jorge Milanes

Jorge Milanes: My name is Jorge Milanes Despaigne, and I’m a tourism promoter and public relations specialist. Forty-five years ago I was born in Cojimar, a small coastal town to the east of Havana. I very much enjoy trips and adventure; and now that I know a good bit about my own country, I’d like to learn more about other nations. I enjoy reading, singing, dancing, haute cuisine and talking with interesting people who offer wisdom and happiness.

5 thoughts on “Dietary Fraud & My Mom’s Ration Book

  • Soda is chemically-flavored water. It should be cheaper than milk, much cheaper. And gold should be more expensive. Fidels ramblings about a money-less society have been suggested for 1000 years, always equally ridiculous. He was crazy.

  • No one familiar with US practices in the region or elsewhere can possibly believe that the goal of intensive US terror operations against Cuba and harsh economic warfare was intended to “bring democracy to the Cuban people.” That is just propaganda, unusually vulgar in this case.

    The actual reasons for the terror and economic warfare were explained clearly at the very outset: the goal was to cause “rising discomfort among hungry Cubans” so that they would overthrow the regime (Kennedy); to “bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow of the government” (Eisenhower’s State Department). The threat of Cuba, as Kennedy’s Latin American advisor Arthur Schlesinger advised the incoming president, is that successful independent development there might stimulate others who suffer from similar problems to follow the same course, so that the system of US domination might unravel. The liberal Democratic administrations were outraged over Cuba’s “successful defiance” of US policies going back to the Monroe Doctrine, which was intended to ensure obedience to the US will in the hemisphere. To a substantial extent, US terror and economic warfare has achieved its actual goals, causing bitter suffering among Cubans, impeding economic development, and undermining moves towards more internal democracy. Exactly as intended.

    Noam Chomsky

  • The same reason why milk is more expensive than soda and why gold is more expensive than milk in the US. Mismanagement of resources. In the beginning of Fidel’s leadership, he suggested to those around him that money be eliminated. They told him he was crazy. I think he was on the right track.

  • Like most African-Americans, Afro-Cubans are largely lactose intolerant. As a result, whole milk is by and large perceived as a child’s beverage in Cuba. Cuban ration books include powdered milk only up to age 7 and after that only under special circumstances such as Jorge’s. On top of that, whole milk is incredibly expensive to buy and is only available in divisa stores. I think the price is close to 4 cuc per liter. (I may be wrong). What I could never understand was why milk is more expensive to buy in Cuba than rum? Think about what you need to make rum. Sugar cane and a complex fermentation and processing plant. For milk you need a dairy cow and pot to boil (pasteurize) the milk.

  • “Milk Production Continues to Stumble in Cuba” (2012)

    “According to Monday´s official Granma daily, in the first four months ofthe year over one million liters of milk were not delivered in the
    island´s central province, 17 percent of what was previously planned,
    meaning that nationwide there over four million less than expected.

    The daily adds that there are deficiencies in the contracts, which does
    not allow producers to show their true potential, inappropriate
    transportation and collection of the product in addition to other
    organizational problems and quality of the milk.

    This is currently happening, the daily recalls, amidst last year´s
    experience of inefficiencies when 39 million liters were not sent to the
    milk industry, reason why the country was forced to spend an additional 15
    million dollars in importing the product.”

    The official media reported that some 39 million litres of milk were lost due to “inefficiencies”. Corruption, of the kind mentioned by Jorge, is certainly a factor. How about larger scale corruption, where whole shipments are diverted to other channels for hard currency?

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